2010 census. Recommendations will address potential ways to modify census residence rules to facilitate more accurate counting of the population or identify the reasons why the rules should stay the same.

Though the concept inherits from a long tradition of practice dating to the 1790 census act, active census law and regulation do not define the residence standard for the decennial census (de jure or de facto), nor do they define what constitutes “usual residence.” Accordingly, census rules and procedures for defining residence are prime candidates for periodic review, such as we provide in this report.


Census residence rules must satisfy several functions at once—among them, a reference for enumerators and interested respondents, a guide to the construction of census questions and instructions, and a template for the design of census operations. We find that, as developed and used in the 2000 census, the residence rules for the decennial census were too complicated and difficult to communicate. The set of 31 formal residence rules was not organized for ease in comprehension, and instead seemed to be a loose amalgamation of previously encountered problematic residence situations. The sheer number and redundancy of the rules detract from their effectiveness in training temporary census enumerators.

A basic flaw of the residence rules for the 2000 census is their lack of a conceptual base: they were essentially a set of exceptions to a concept of usual residence, and not an explication of one. Inferences as to the underlying logic of the residence rules required careful scrutiny. As a result, the residence rules for the 2010 and future censuses should be substantially rewritten (relative to those used in 2000), and the Census Bureau should make a concerted effort in 2010 to improve the communication of residence rules. Core concepts should be expressed as a small number of concise residence principles. These residence principles should then be used to develop other products, such as any instructions or cues to respondents on the census questionnaire, training materials for enumerators, census processing and editing routines, and a “frequently asked questions” list for enumerator and respondent reference and posting on the Internet.

As a candidate set, the panel recommends the following suggested statement of residence principles: The fundamental purpose of the census is to count all persons whose usual residence is in the United States and its territories on Census Day.

  1. All persons living in the United States, including non-U.S. citizens, should be counted at their usual residence. Usual residence is the place where they live or sleep more than any other place.

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